Charlotte isn’t your typical Southern American city. Yes, you’ll find oak-lined streets, quiet neighbourhoods and traditional Southern fare served up with a “thank y’all.” But as the largest city in the state of North Carolina, Charlotte also features gleaming skyscrapers, a diverse population and an urbane vibe you won’t find in many other places in the South. So whether you’re searching for soul food or in the mood for a modern city’s amenities, take a look at our Charlotte guide for a little local inspiration.
The Queen City
Called the Queen City for its namesake, Britain’s Queen Charlotte, the city was originally settled by people of European decent in the 1700s at the intersection of two Native American trading paths. Today those paths are Trade and Tryon Streets, which mark the centre of the city’s busy uptown. From a gold rush to cotton processing, the city has been home to multiple prosperous industries, but none so prominent as its role as a modern banking hub. Charlotte is the second largest banking headquarters in the United States – something that’s reflected in the city’s fast growth and international influence in recent years.
To really soak in the region though, you’ll want to spend some time enjoying what many consider its best assets: the gorgeous North Carolina weather and scenery. There’s no better spot to do this than at the US National Whitewater Center. This official Olympic training site for whitewater slalom racing offers whitewater rafting, biking, rock climbing, and the chance to explore the Catawba River via paddleboard, canoe, and kayak.
If shopping and dining are more your preferred past times, there’s plenty of that to be found in Charlotte’s charming and often eclectic neighbourhoods. Spend an afternoon in Plaza Midwood and NoDa, where you can pop in vintage shops like Hong Kong Vintage, international art stores like Pura Vida, and antique boutiques like Fifteen Ten. Grab a pint of local craft beer at a brewery like NoDa Brewing Company and dig into the city’s most popular fried pickles at historic neighbourhood diner, The Diamond.
Though there are plenty of cosy neighbourhood spots for wining and dining, uptown’s sleek restaurants offer some of the city’s top fare. Sip cocktails and enjoy creative dishes beneath feathery chandeliers in the chef-driven 5 Church. Or dine on locally sourced and seasonally inspired offerings at the bright and airy Halcyon, Flavors from the Earth. From these elegant eateries to the casual food trucks you’ll find around town, the city’s fast-growing culinary scene is just one more reason you’ll likely want to return soon.
Header photo: Home to 10 Fortune 500 companies, Charlotte is a major financial centre © Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority
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How well do you know Charlotte? Have we missed any of your favourite spots in the Queen City? Share your tips in the comments below.
Written by Sarah Crosland
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About the author: SCroslandSarah Crosland
Sarah Crosland lives in Charlotte and covers the city and region for numerous publications. The North Carolina native has been a travel writer for almost a decade, but her first love has always been food. She authored the book Food Lovers’ Guide to Charlotte and her next book, 100 Things to do in Charlotte Before You Die, is available in 2014.